The Ninth Word: Sensation
In the very middle of the Bible are a collection of books that are a representation of
many of the ways in which God uses our senses, emotions, and minds to reveal divine
truth. Collectively they are called “The Writings” or the “Poetical and Wisdom Books.”
The Poetical Books are Psalms, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations. The Wisdom
books are Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.
The Psalms are the hymns and prayer book from the time of the Second Temple. Song
of Solomon is a collection of love poems. Lamentations is a series of laments and grief
poems relating to the destruction of the Temple. These are attributed to Jeremiah and
are often printed immediately after the book that bears his name in the Bible.
Job engages the issue of human suffering and the sufficiency of God. Proverbs is a
collection of wise sayings about how to live a good and righteous life and Ecclesiastes
is a no holds barred spiritual diary covering a wealth of human emotions.
Let’s get a sampling of these important and timeless books.
Read Psalm 23. You probably already know this one. David is considered the “father” of
the Psalms, much like Moses is considered the “father” of the Law. But David did not
write all of them, since they come from many different time periods of Jewish history
and tradition. However, the 23rd Psalm is considered to be one of David’s very own
Now read Psalm 22. Do you recall where you have heard this quoted in the New
Testament? Why do you think Jesus would be thinking about this? Isn’t it interesting
that 22 and 23 when taken together begin with “Why have you forsaken me?” and end
with “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Scan the Psalms and you will see “A Song of Ascents” as a superscription before the
verses. These were hymns meant to be sung either on the way “up” to Jerusalem to the
Temple from Jericho or sung as worshippers climbed the great stairs leading to the
Psalm 100 was used once the people had come into the precincts of the Temple: “Enter
his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise,” (Psalm 100:4). And for those
concerned about dancing, drums, and cymbals in worship, there is the praise-filled
hymn, Psalm 150.
Read some of the Proverbs. It really doesn’t matter where you begin. There are terrific
pearls of wisdom in every verse. Solomon is the spiritual “father” of the Proverbs.
Contrary to folklore, he did not personally write all of them, but rather more likely
collected them from around the ancient world. Proverbs 3:21-22 says, “My child, do not
let these escape from your sight; keep sound wisdom and prudence, and they will be life
for your soul and adornment for your neck.”
And one especially liked by our author:
“Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a girl.” (Proverbs 30:18-19)
Read the most familiar passage of scripture from Ecclesiastes. If you are of the Baby
Boomer generation you will find the lyrics of a popular song from 1965 performed by
The Byrds. See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Consider how there seem to be “times” for things in
life. Some say that Ecclesiastes is a depressing book. It does tend to look sometimes at
life as if the glass is half-empty rather than half-full, but in that regard it is painfully
honest in reflecting where we sometimes find ourselves despite our best attempts to
Read the Song of Solomon in one sitting. It is composed as a dialogue of love between
a man and a woman, perhaps Solomon himself and a lover. It is actually quite erotic,
and for a period of time in the history of the Church, clergy - uncomfortable with its
eroticism - taught that it represented the relationship between Christ and his “bride,” the
The classic book of Job concerns the question of why bad things happen to good
people. Structurally, it is presented as a series of “lectures” to Job by three of his friends
(though actually with three friends like that, no one needs enemies). Even his wife tells
him, “Curse God, and die,” (Job 2:9).
Those who wish to have that fundamental question about evil answered once and for all
in Job will find themselves disappointed. God’s response to Job is basically, “Who are
you to ask me to explain myself?” And so the question of why the righteous suffer is left
still shrouded in mystery.
Read Job 40:1-9 and 41:1-6 to get a sense of the dialogue between Job and God.
Consider the question God puts to Job, “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you
condemn me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8). Have you ever blamed God for
something and by so doing exonerated yourself from any responsibility?
The Writings of the Hebrew scripture force us to consider matters of wisdom,
philosophy, existentialism, love, worship, joy, and sorrow. Sensational stuff!